Most climate change mitigation scenarios rely on increased use of bioenergy to decarbonize the energy system. Here we use results from the 33rd Energy Modeling Forum study (EMF-33) to investigate projected international bioenergy trade for different integrated assessment models across several climate change mitigation scenarios.
Results show that in scenarios with no climate policy, international bioenergy trade is likely to increase over time, and becomes even more important when climate targets are set. More stringent climate targets, however, do not necessarily imply greater bioenergy trade compared to weaker targets, as final energy demand may be reduced.
However, the scaling up of bioenergy trade happens sooner and at a faster rate with increasing climate target stringency. Across models, for a scenario likely to achieve a 2 °C target, 10–45 EJ/year out of a total global bioenergy consumption of 72–214 EJ/year are expected to be traded across nine world regions by 2050. While this projection is greater than the present trade volumes of coal or natural gas, it remains below the present trade of crude oil.
This growth in bioenergy trade largely replaces the trade in fossil fuels (especially oil) which is projected to decrease significantly over the twenty-first century. As climate change mitigation scenarios often show diversified energy systems, in which numerous world regions can act as bioenergy suppliers, the projections do not necessarily lead to energy security concerns. Nonetheless, rapid growth in the trade of bioenergy is projected in strict climate mitigation scenarios, raising questions about infrastructure, logistics, financing options, and global standards for bioenergy production and trade.